A controversy is stirring in Lutheran circles over the revelation that Thrivent Financial Services, the largest fraternal benefit society in the United States, and one ostensibly centered on Lutheran faith and values, has been quietly sending thousands to Planned Parenthood through its gift-matching program.
Thrivent Financial is a Fortune 500 non-profit organization with the goal and vision of assisting its members with financial planning and services. This entails a gift-matching program by the corporation wherein an employee’s charitable contribution will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, from a Thrivent funding pool the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation. While the company sets limits and guidelines as to how much of a contribution will be matched, they set very few limits on what type of organization can receive the funds. It has become clear over the last several weeks that Planned Parenthood makes the cut.
The questionable donations were highlighted by Lutheran Pastor Steven Cholak, and brought to the attention of another Lutheran pastor, Rev. Michael Schuermann, who operates a blog entitled The Daring Lutheran. Schuermann questioned Thrivent on the apparent donations via a Twitter exchange, and was initially told that while certain Planned Parenthood organizations did appear on a list of approved “charities” that could receive matching funds, “[f]or what it’s worth, to date, no funds have ever been directed to that organization.” A subsequent review of Thrivent’s tax documents, however, revealed a very different story.
According to Thrivent’s IRS 990 forms (linked at the bottom of Scheurmann’s blog), the organization has sent at least $8,484 to Planned Parenthood, for a total matched gift of $16,968, just in the years 2006-2012. As Schuermann points out, given the average cost of a surgical abortion, Thrivent has given Planned Parenthood enough money to perform approximately 34 abortions, or an unknown, much higher number of chemical abortions.
It also appears that Planned Parenthood has been on the list of approved recipients for quite some time, with new additional Planned Parenthood offices and affiliates being added in recent years. Schuermann reports that a Thrivent source with in-depth knowledge of the gift-matching program revealed that approved organizations are given their approval code in chronological order as each organization is added to the list. This means that certain Planned Parenthood organizations with codes that are “earlier” numerically have been on the list for a substantial period of time, leaving the real amount of money flowing from Thrivent to Planned Parenthood affiliates largely unknown.
Equally disturbing is that Thrivent has made not even the slightest effort to direct in what manner these funds may be used. When the Susan G. Komen foundation was caught funneling massive sums of money to Planned Parenthood, the organization was quick to respond that the gifts were designated only for use in breast cancer screening and could not be used to fund any other service offered by Planned Parenthood. While the economic reality is, of course, far different when it comes to how Planned Parenthood supports itself, Thrivent cannot claim even this much, as the corporation appears to have made no effort at all to at least direct the manner in which the funds are used. In short, dollars from the ostensibly faith-based organization can be used for anything, including supporting Planned Parenthood’s deviant version of “sex education” and outright abortions.
Following the outcry that naturally came from the Missouri Synod members when this funding was discovered, and the official statement issued shortly thereafter, Thrivent responded by pulling not only Planned Parenthood from its list of approved organizations, but also all pro-life organizations that had previously received matching grants as well. Ostensibly, this was marketed as a “temporary” suspension until the organization had time to review its policies, and it was accompanied by quickly removing the public’s ability to search Thrivent’s list of approved organizations, after refusing to provide a list themselves.
On February 6, Thrivent released its most recent statement and new guidelines for its gift-matching program. Planned Parenthood, reportedly, will no longer receive funds. But neither will any pro-life organization as well – a move that robs crisis pregnancy centers and other pro-life groups of $878,569 annual average in matching funds, or nearly a million dollars per year. Thrivent’s justification for the move is that such a controversy may “distract … from the common purpose of Thrivent and its membership.”
Good to know that protecting society’s most vulnerable, and defending a child’s right to life, is nothing more than a “distraction” to an organization with the self-proclaimed mission of “supporting the values of faith, family, stewardship and service” and being “called to care for others.” Those little babies really do just get in the way sometimes.